During and After Grief, It’s POSSIBLE TO FIND HAPPINESS
Updated: Jan 6
By Jill S. Cohen, NYC family grief counselor
You can find joy during times of grief. And you should.
Staying in the “heaviness” of grief without shifting to some “lightness” is a profoundly uncomfortable way of being.
It’s true that after the death of a loved one, life will not be the same again. However, healing is possible and learning to live again is doable, and usually, inevitable, if you want it to be.
The loss will remain. Many call it “a hole in the heart.” But the sting will not be as sharp and raw it was in the very beginning. It’s normal to feel sad after a death. What comes after the grieving process and how you continue to live, the “going forward” part, has everything to do with how willing you are to work through grief and how ready you are to continue on, in the life which is now your “new normal.”
I often get asked what is the average length of the grieving process? Getting through the grief process and allowing it to run its natural course is what needs to happen in order for a person to truly realize that he/she can be happy again.
For some people, it takes a long time to get to the stage of grief that involves hope and a willingness to be happy again. The bereaved person has to understand on a very deep level that it is possible to “feel” again without dishonoring the deceased.
When a person has suffered a huge loss, it can be so difficult to even have the desire and motivation to live again and to look for ways to find happiness.
Those who have gone on to survive grief and find joy again, suggest the following approaches:
Small steps. Let the process of grieving run its course. Don’t rush it. Until the intensity of your grief subsides, you can’t expect to be truly happy again. Work through your guilt, extreme pain, extreme sadness, intense anger, and every other feeling and emotion. Often, reaching out to a grief counselor gives you a structure for doing this work.
Focusing on the important things. After the death of a spouse, for example, some people focus on themselves, what they can do to be happy again and even spend their time and energy on living and loving for their remaining family members.
Redefining happiness. Sometimes, when you can’t fill the void in its exact same way, perhaps something new can help ease the pain. Try to find new things or experiences from which to derive pleasure. Whether it's the personal fulfillment of accomplishing goals, spending more time with family or taking up a new activity, learning to live again may sometimes require an adjustment in outlook and thinking.
Remember that life after loss is not an easy experience to endure. While things will never be exactly the same again, “different” can be happy as well.
The website Tinybuddha.com published a blog about find
ing happiness after grief. The author Missy Yost suggests that sometimes a tragedy can give new energy to life and bring more awareness to our life.
As part of grieving the death of her father, she blamed herself for his death. Then one day, in a true aha! moment, she realized that it would make him sad to know this. He wanted her to be happy and live happily. At that moment, she drew her conclusion that:
The best thing we can do is honor the person we lost is by living our lives to the fullest. After all, wouldn’t that be our wish for them?
Then, with that realization, she chose to honor him by living her own life to the fullest, appreciating every moment, and all the people that make her own life special.
She started doing the things that she had always wanted to do. She also learned to stop and appreciate the small things around her. For her, although this was a time of great sadness, it was also an unexpected time of personal growth, which resulted in a more meaningful life.
Continuing to live and find joy is the ultimate way to honor your loved one.
I think so. Give it some thought. And consider, that there IS happiness after grief.
If you aren’t sure if you would benefit from a grief counselor, click HERE to download my free info sheet.